Pearl ponders pace

How the Tennessee Basketball Vols play in tonight's exhibition finale against Div. II Lincoln Memorial University could determine how they play all season ... at least in terms of tempo.

Head coach Bruce Pearl loved the fact a fast pace gradually exhausted North Alabama in the exhibition opener last Friday night. He loved the fact the pace enabled the Vols to get a few easy layups and some open 3-pointers before the North Alabama defenders were in place. But he didn't like the dozen or so layups the visitors got as a result of breakdowns in UT's full-court press and he certainly didn't like the 26 turnovers his team committed while attempting to run and gun against the Div. II Lions.

"It's hard to press a smaller, quicker team, and they were smaller and quicker," Pearl conceded. "We're obviously not giving up on it (fast tempo) but it's something I would've like to have had more success with."

Tennessee essentially plays with three guards - Bobby Maze, Scotty Hopson, J.P. Prince - plus forwards Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism. Maze is a point guard, Prince is a former point guard and Hopson is an above-average ball-handler, so Tennessee should be really good against full-court pressure. That wasn't the case vs. North Alabama, however.

"I thought we should've been able to handle their ball pressure better," Pearl said, adding that the Vols also should've done "a better job of feeding the post when we had an advantage and doing a better job of taking the ball to the basket off the bounce when they extended."

Tennessee's full-court press is designed to force errant passes that are as likely to end up in Vol hands as the opponents'. Pearl calls these "50-50 balls," and conceded that his team worked really hard on forcing them vs. North Alabama.

"I thought the effort was there," the coach said. "Certainly, there's a commitment on behalf of the players to play that aggressively."

Pearl is determined that his guys play aggressively and energetically. He'll be limiting their minutes tonight to ensure that he always has fresh players on the floor. That wasn't always the case a year ago.

"I think I played them more (minutes) last year," he said. "Tyler and Wayne probably played the whole game, then came out the last six or seven minutes."

Tipoff for tonight's game is set for 7:30. The Vols open for real Friday, Nov. 13, hosting Austin Peay. That game will be televised by SportSouth with a 9 o'clock tipoff.


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